Queensland mourns legal stalwart

Even in retirement, Gordon Dean was keen to research Queensland's legal history. He is shown here identifying his great grandfather, Arthur Dean, who served as a then police magistrate in Mt Morgan, Townsville and Brisbane.

Queensland’s legal community is mourning former politician, solicitor and magistrate Gordon Dean, who died on Thursday, aged 81.

Arthur Gordon Dean was born in Mackay in 1942 and raised in Maroon, near Boonah. He completed high school in Townsville before accepting a five-year clerkship with his solicitor grandfather Bert Dean at local firm Dean, Gillman and Thompson.

Mr Dean was admitted in 1965, and became a partner of the firm the same year.

He turned to politics in 1977, holding the Federal seat of Herbert for the Liberals until 1983 before returning to life as a solicitor, with Nehmer Davenport Dean in Townsville.

A lover of fine music and theatre, Mr Dean joined Townsville Choral and Orchestral Society in 1960. He was a member for 25 years, eventually becoming president of the Eisteddfod Council of North Queensland.

He also held various roles in the Presbyterian and later Uniting Church, James Cook University, Townsville Hospitals Board and John Flynn College Council.


Mr Dean moved to Brisbane in 1987, working as a solicitor until appointment as a magistrate in 1997. He presided in Brisbane and Warwick until mandatory retirement in 2007.

He was volunteer announcer and board member at classical music station 4MBS, and member and eventual president of the Brisbane Chorale.

He also authored five books: A Simple Country Lad: A Kind of Autobiography in 2007, Here Comes the Judge: The Queensland Magistrate in 2008, Law North: A History of the North Queensland Law Association in 2009, Taking Responsibility: Queensland’s Family Responsibilities Commission in 2013, and The Fire Within: Queensland’s Family Responsibilities Commission in 2015.

At his valedictory ceremony in Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2007, Chief Magistrate Irwin pointed to the human touch Mr Dean showed as an officer of the court.

“Your humanity, your compassion and decorum has continued to be the hallmark of the discharge of your duties in Brisbane and you depart, in my humble view, at the top of your game,” Judge Irwin said.

In response, Mr Dean said he could look back on his professional life with “considerable pride”.


“I’ve been a solicitor in private practice, I’ve served in the Federal Parliament, I’ve seen the law from the perspective of the law maker and I end my working life as a magistrate. It’s all been immensely satisfying. While I don’t expect to regret coming to retirement I do expect never to forget the many privileges I have experienced and a sense of fulfilment that I feel,” he said.

He said it was crucial magistrates “aspire to the highest levels of professionalism and vigorously maintain their independence”.

“We can do that by displaying a thorough knowledge of the law and by applying it properly and expeditiously. We should be courteous and fair, we should have common sense and show a human face, we should be determined to do what is just and right without circumscribing proper processes and without unduly bending to external pressure and opinion,” he said.

“Indeed, not only magistrates but all who professionally serve, work in and appear in our courts have the onus of maintaining the highest of standards to ensure that the Magistrates Court is never less than the great Court I consider it to be.

“For myself I can only hope that I personally did not fall too far short of those standards. Soon I leave the court. I was humbled by having been considered worthy of appointment to it in the first place, I am proud to have been able to serve in it as a magistrate.”

Mr Dean’s funeral will be held at Souths Leagues Club, 120 Jane St, West End, Brisbane, on Thursday 3 August at 2.30pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to Blue Care in Mr Dean’s name are welcome.

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One Response

  1. I appeared before Mr. Dean on many occasions and always found him to be very balanced and courteous to all concerned, which was not necessarily universal in those days. Sorry to hear of his passing.

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